Regarding the model’s mother - I usually enjoy having her on set. The great mother is indispensable. She’s there to support her daughter unconditionally. That may mean pulling a dress out from under piles of clothing and quickly ironing it; braiding hair; applying makeup; wiping a runny nose; offering encouragement.
Since I customarily work without an assistant, mothers sometimes take on that role for me. I’ve had mothers happily hold light reflectors and leaf blowers (for blowing the model’s hair), move junk out of the way, and bring us snacks.
When discussing an upcoming photo session with a parent, which usually is the mom, I request that she, rather than the father, be present during the shoot. My belief is that the mother will be more in tune with her daughter’s needs, being better able to provide the assistance mentioned above.
Sometimes I want someone the model can react to or interact with, and mothers and fathers are perfect for that. I’ve gotten some remarkable expressions when a parent, placed out of the shot, catches their daughter’s attention with their antics. What can work well too is having a parent or the limb of a parent physically interacting with their child.
Unfortunately, there is the occasional overbearing mom who wants to control her daughter, often making demands of her that are unnecessary and disruptive. This attitude typically takes the form of telling the girl how she thinks I want her to pose, which frequently is incorrect. When that happens too many times, I’ll patiently explain to the mother what she is doing and how it’s hindering the shoot. That generally solves the problem. If it doesn’t, and if the daughter is not too young, I’ll politely ask the mother to leave the area so the girl and I can photograph alone. She’ll usually agree to this.
By the way, the top photo was posed (as were most of the other photos in this blog). People have viewed this picture and become upset that the blond woman was mocking the teenage girl. She was not. In fact, the woman was reluctant to pose this way. It took some persuading by me before she agreed to do so.
Elspeth’s face lit up when she caught sight of her father working outdoors. If he hadn’t been there, I doubt I could have coaxed such a wonderful expression out of someone so young. I love how her hair and window curtain both frame her eyes, nose, and mouth.
When I suggested this shot to Gretel and her mom, I assumed one or both would say “no”. Neither did. I had Gretel try several expressions - I liked this one the best. She looks utterly defeated, ready to accept her dismal fate.
Amelia has lots of wonderful expressions. This one says heaps. The hand belongs to her mother. I also like how Amelia pulled down her sleeves a bit to cover her own hands.
Occasionally, I’ll include a parent in the picture if I sense her presence will benefit the photograph. Sometimes her role is as a supporting actor to her star daughter. Other times, both have equally important roles. Either way, they must work together to support one another.
It took time to set up this mother/daughter shot. Their placement in the frame was critical. I wanted Miranda, the daughter, to slightly overlap her mother, to imply a physical connection between the two. But I did not want the crossed arms and annoyed look to be hidden. Though Miranda is off to the side, she is larger and in sharper focus than her mom, making her more important. Their expressions as the smart-ass kid and the annoyed mother are subtle but obvious.
Mother and daughter were dancing madly on top of a bed, causing their hair to fly out in all directions. Each one’s excitement fed the other, helping to create this dynamic image.
I find this photo REALLY creepy (in a good way) for a couple of reasons. There’s something about how the girl, Elspeth, has her left arm positioned. It looks eerie and unnatural. In addition, her head is bent backward, resulting in no clear connection with her mother. And then there’s Elspeth’s spooky blank stare. Photoshop helped too.
Here’s Elspeth and her mom once more, and again not interacting. Each seems isolated from the other. Arms are folded, and neither one is trying to connect. I think both expressions are marvelous.
Finding The Shot
Focus And Blur
Lighting The Subject